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Sunday, 14 January 2018 00:00

Love Remains After More Than Twenty Years

Written by  Tan Siew Chern & Loh Siew Chien, Malacca / Translated by Lee Hui Yieng

A total of 466 care recipients and family members, including residents of welfare homes, “returned home” for a festive reunion. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]

Things changed through time but Tzu Chi volunteers’ love and care towards care recipients remain even after more than 20 years. It was heart-warming that many had set aside time for the annual year-end distribution event, a reunion for care recipients.


It was unusually cold on January 14, 2018. Before 8 o’clock in the morning, Tzu Chi care recipients began arriving at the Malacca Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall, which was decorated with red lanterns, exuding a warm feeling and signifying the coming of Chinese New Year.

A line-up of programmes were prepared for the annual event, that included a bell-and-drum performance of the finale of the “Twelve Great Vows of the Medicine Buddha”, screening of “Tzu Chi 2017 Year in Review”, touching drama, sharing by care recipients, lion dance, cultural dance, magic show, and blessings from the “God of Prosperity”. In addition, the care recipients could also take family portraits, get free haircuts and health check-ups, and purchase some pre-loved items at low prices, before the start of the event.

A total of 466 care recipients and family members, including residents of welfare homes, attended the event to share the festive joy.

Recollection of the past

To ensure that the care recipients did not feel marginalized by society, Tzu Chi Malacca invited all care recipients to “return home” to Jing Si Hall for a reunion-cum-relief distribution event for the first time on May 8, 1994. After more than 20 years, the objective of the distribution and the love from volunteers have remained the focus.

In the past, the event was held monthly. The warm interactions between volunteers and care recipients during the event had inspired many to join Tzu Chi. Cheng Tee Fang, for example, helped ferry an elderly care recipient, Chen Chin Dong, to the event at volunteers’ request. She was deeply touched by the volunteers’ sincere and selfless giving, and began to join them on home visits to care recipients.

She remarked, “I had not seen any organizations that treated the underprivileged group in this way.” She related that back then most of those who received care from Tzu Chi were elderly people from the old folks’ home. Volunteers managed to bring the elderly people, some of whom had mobility problems, to the event because they knew that it was rare for these elderly people to leave the old folks’ home and to have meals with others in a warm homelike setting.

Seeing the well-ordered year-end distribution event this year, Tee Fang said, “We have successfully passed down our experiences, making it possible for all the activities to be well-organized now. In the past, everything was kept simple due to limited space. Even though we were short of manpower and each of us had to take up multiple roles, everyone carried out their tasks with great team work and joy.”

I am home

“I return because I want to!” Lee Sok Cheng returned to her spiritual home after leaving “home” for several years. She did what she used to do like picking up care recipients and accompanying them to the Jing Si Hall for the event.

Sok Cheng and her husband, Lee Soo Leng, were both diligent in walking the Bodhisattva Path. However, more than seven years ago, they slowed down and discharged their responsibilities from Tzu Chi.

The couple thought of giving up due to frustrations aroused from donation collections. However, for the donors’ wisdom-life, they thought to themselves, “We must find the motivation to go on.” Fortunately, they continued to watch the Da Ai TV despite getting less and less active in Tzu Chi.

The images of the aging Master giving her sermon chokingly on several occasions broke Sok Cheng’s heart and led her to contemplate: “The only way for me to regain my motivation is to return to volunteer with Tzu Chi.” After much efforts, the couple finally managed to renew their initial aspiration, and they returned “home” to help out in the event happily, fulfilling their promise to the Master.

People changed but love remains

Wu Jin Feng, who sat curling in a wheelchair, expressed her joy to volunteers with a slurred speech that went, “Happy... Blessing…”

Her brother, Wu Qing He, who accompanied her to the event, looked for familiar figures among the attendees and sighed, “There were fewer people last time. Now, there are more unfamiliar faces and the space is bigger. Many brothers and sisters in the Dharma and care recipients are no longer around. Everything has changed…” Being care recipients since 1994, the siblings have witnessed the transformation of the event. What has never changed through time is the love showered on them by volunteers.

A wheelchair-bound Gao Mei Qin, who dressed up for the event shared, “It feels like coming home! But the environment has changed. Some brothers and sisters in the Dharma have grey hairs now. There are also many new faces…” Having been a care recipient since 2002, she was eager to meet her old friends, whom she got acquainted with since then. She also commemorated the deceased volunteers, Wong Ah Lan and Tan Peng Hong, in gratitude of their love and care for her in the past.

“I am so excited! I have looked forward to such merry event.” She described herself as a free and happy bird, who finally had the chance to step out of her home.

I am here to fulfil your wish

“This is perhaps the last time I attend a year-end distribution event,” said Abdullah Halim Fong bin Abdullah.

Despite feeling unwell, Abdullah Halim came with his family and smiled broadly at volunteers he were familiar with. He said, “I am very happy. I must come because my good friends are here.” His Indonesian wife, Yati Anon added, “This event is only held once a year. I want to usher in the New Year together with everyone. What a loss to miss it.” Hence, they attended the event almost every year.

Besides enjoying the delicious meal and taking a family portrait, he was also convinced by the volunteers to get a haircut. The young hairdresser praised him, “You look handsome, as if you are only 18 years old.” That made the 62-year-old Abdullah Halim happy and he smiled with satisfaction when looking at his new hairstyle through his hand phone.

“I was worried that he could not attend the event but surprisingly he insisted on coming,” shared volunteer Loo Mei Fong. She added that it was not easy for Abdullah Halim, a terminal-stage liver cancer patient in poor health, to spend a few hours at the event.

Tzu Chi began to care for the family in 2011, and about two years later, when the couple had stable jobs to support their family, the assistance was discontinued. Although they could cope with their livelihood independently, they had been grateful to Tzu Chi. Unfortunately, the family fell into financial predicament once again after Abdullah Halim fell ill in 2016. Hence, Tzu Chi rallied to help them again.

When Mei Fong learnt that Abdullah Halim was worried about his children’s applications for Malaysian citizenships and educational fees, she promised to follow up on these matters for him. Now, every day that he is alive is a day earned to be with his family, and the rest would be taken care of with help from volunteers.

Standing tall from adversity

Sellathamby a/l Manickam experienced the toughest time in his life in 2013, when he fell sick and lost his job. At one point, the family could not even afford to buy rice, and his newly born twins were fed with coffee instead of milk. As the family had no means to pay for the children’s school fees for a new school term, they were forced to seek help from Tzu Chi.

They shared their story on stage during the year-end distribution event. With great efforts, Sellathamby managed to find his source of income and stopped receiving financial aid from Tzu Chi in the fourth month. He encouraged the audience by saying that misery is only temporary, one still needs to face and rise from adversity with courage, even when help is offered.

Sellathamby’s sharing struck a chord with Khelvenaa a/p Ravinthran, who also came from a poor family. It was Khelvenaa’s first attendance at the event after receiving Tzu Chi study grant last year. She hoped that she could create a better future by studying hard.

She shared, “We don’t always get what we want in life. It is good to have someone come to our aid in time of need, but we can’t take it for granted. We need to work hard too and reciprocate the kindness when we are able to.”

Another care recipient, Yap Kean Keang, could not help but shed his tears a few times while watching the video footages and listening to the care recipients’ sharing. He contemplated suicide after having his leg amputated due to diabetes. Seeing that there were people who were in worse situations than him, he was encouraged to accept his physical disability bravely and start life anew.

He said, “They had suffered through a tough life. Even the elderly people contribute willingly, so what’s more of us who are still young. We should not be parasites to society. I hope to start anew after I return to Kuala Lumpur and help others through volunteering with Tzu Chi.”

Tzu Chi Malacca has embarked on the charitable mission for 25 years. In 2017, a total of RM1,629,668.83 was spent on charitable work and RM386,850 on study grants for over 1,000 needy students of different ethnic groups. In addition to material aid, Tzu Chi has provided care and support to help the poor and needy overcome their difficulties towards a better future.

Lim Ban Hong, Malacca State Assemblyman, recognized Tzu Chi’s efforts in its various missions and commended the volunteers’ selfless dedication. He hoped that the volunteers will continue their efforts to benefit Malacca state and its people.

 

 

Gao Mei Qin dressed up for the event, full of anticipation in meeting Tzu Chi people, who were like her old friends. [Photograph by Heng Chin Chuan]
  Abdullah Halim insisted on attending the year-end distribution event with his family members despite not feeling well physically. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]

Gao Mei Qin dressed up for the event, full of anticipation in meeting Tzu Chi people, who were like her old friends. [Photograph by Heng Chin Chuan]
 
Abdullah Halim insisted on attending the year-end distribution event with his family members despite not feeling well physically. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
Sellathamby shared about his affinity with Tzu Chi and how he strived to stand on his own feet again. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]   Yap Kean Keang was deeply touched by the video footages and care recipients’ sharing. He felt encouraged to accept his physical disability and start life anew. [Photograph by Chin Fook Kuen]

Sellathamby shared about his affinity with Tzu Chi and how he strived to stand on his own feet again. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
 
Yap Kean Keang was deeply touched by the video footages and care recipients’ sharing. He felt encouraged to accept his physical disability and start life anew. [Photograph by Chin Fook Kuen]
 
Lim Ban Hong, Malacca State Assemblyman recognized Tzu Chi’s efforts in its various missions and commended the volunteers’ selfless dedication. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]   Wu Jin Feng, who has been attending Tzu Chi’s year-end distribution event for many years, expressed her joy to a volunteer. [Photograph by Ng Hock Thai]

Lim Ban Hong, Malacca State Assemblyman recognized Tzu Chi’s efforts in its various missions and commended the volunteers’ selfless dedication. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]
 
 
Wu Jin Feng, who has been attending Tzu Chi’s year-end distribution event for many years, expressed her joy to a volunteer. [Photograph by Ng Hock Thai]
 
Cheng Tee Fang, who helped out in the first reunion-cum-relief distribution event in 1994, was deeply touched by the volunteers’ sincere and selfless dedication, and has since been inspired to volunteer with Tzu Chi. [Photograph by Teo Tze Earn]   Lee Soo Leng and wife, Lee Sok Cheng, rekindled their initial aspiration and returned home to Tzu Chi joyfully for the year-end distribution event. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]

Cheng Tee Fang, who helped out in the first reunion-cum-relief distribution event in 1994, was deeply touched by the volunteers’ sincere and selfless dedication, and has since been inspired to volunteer with Tzu Chi. [Photograph by Teo Tze Earn]
 
 
Lee Soo Leng and wife, Lee Sok Cheng, rekindled their initial aspiration and returned home to Tzu Chi joyfully for the year-end distribution event. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]